Amammoth winter storm that buried some areas in heavy snow and saw dangerously cold temperatures across much of the nation continued to wreak havoc on Christmas Day Sunday.
The storm has left at least 28 people dead, knocked out power to several hundred thousand of homes and businesses, canceled thousands of flights, and led to at least one boil-water advisory.
About 60% of the U.S. had been under a winter weather advisory or warning from the system, which has been called a “once in a generation” storm by forecasters and has stretched from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande on the Mexico border.
More than 1,700 domestic and international flights were canceled as of Sunday morning, according to the tracking site FlightAware.
There is some relief in sight: a winter warmup later this week, forecasters said – even in Buffalo, which has endured brutal conditions with hurricane-force winds and snow that has triggered whiteouts and paralyzed emergency response efforts. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Saturday that almost every firetruck in the city was stranded.
The National Weather Service said the snow total at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport stood at 43 inches Sunday. At least seven people have died in the area, some in their homes when responders couldn’t reach them, officials said.
In Ohio, about 50 vehicles were involved in a pileup that killed at least four. An 82-year-old woman was found dead outside of her assisted care facility in Michigan on Friday.
The system intensified Friday into a bomb cyclone, a weather phenomenon known for its powerful winds, heavy blizzards and subzero temperatures that are created through a process known as bombogenesis.
- ‘A welcome change’: Warmer temperatures expected later this week
- Family braves storm to seek shelter
- Jackson, Mississippi residents must boil drinking water after lines burst
- Migrants bused to vice president’s residence on freezing Christmas Eve
- Blizzard keeps going in Great Lakes, hard-hit Buffalo
- What is wind chill?
‘A welcome change’: Warmer temperatures expected later this week
Tom Kines, a senior meteorologist at Accuweather, told USA TODAY that the snow band that hit Buffalo is pushing south of the city. Residents in the area, and swaths of the country, can expect warmer weather in the coming days.
“In general, the weather in Buffalo, and not only in Buffalo but across a large portion of the country, the trend is going to be for warmer weather for the upcoming week. In fact, Buffalo could easily get up in the 40s at some point during the second half of the week,” Kines said.
He said residents of Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Washington D.C. and even Florida have seen “unusually cold” temperatures, but “they’re also going to get much warmer.”
“It’ll be a welcome change coming up, the second half of the week,” Kines said.
Family braves storm to seek shelter
Ditjak Ilunga, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, was traveling with his daughters to visit family in Hamilton, Ontario, on Friday. The family’s SUV became trapped in Buffalo, and they spent hours in the car nearly buried in snow as wind whipped outside.
At 4 a.m. on Saturday, the family decided to try to reach a nearby shelter. Ilunga carried his 6-year-old daughter on his back, while his 16-year-old daughter carried their Pomeranian puppy. Ilunga said he cried when they finally reached the shelter.
“If I stay in this car I’m going to die here with my kids,” he told the Associated Press he was thinking at the time. “It’s something I will never forget in my life.”
Jackson, Mississippi residents must boil drinking water after lines burst
City officials announced on Christmas Day that residents of the Mississippi capital must boil their drinking water after water lines burst in cold temperatures.
“Please check your businesses and churches for leaks and broken pipes, as these add up tremendously and only worsen the problem,” the city said in a statement. Officials also confirmed that crews were actively working to make repairs, though they did not confirm how long residents should expect to boil their drinking water.
Some residents also reported low or no water pressure. Neighborhoods in the Mississippi city saw fluctuating water pressure on Saturday, with officials saying they believed the pressure drop was caused by leaks and water line breaks.
City spokesperson Melissa Payne said frigid temperatures were contributing to the breaks.
The disruption comes after the city lost water in late August, and ten of thousands of residents did not have running water during a 2021 cold snap.
Migrants bused to vice president’s residence on freezing Christmas Eve
A group of migrants was dropped off at Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in Washington, D.C., on Saturday night, when temperatures were below freezing.
The migrants were taken to local churches. Some of the migrants were seen without winter clothes, including some who were wearing T-shirts in on the frigid Christmas Eve.
The Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network, which has been helping receive migrants in the nation’s capital since the spring, said it was prepared for the arrivals on Saturday, CNN reported.
The buses were carrying 110 to 130 people, according to Tatiana Laborde, managing director of SAMU First Response, which has also served migrants in the city.
The move is not the first time a group of migrants has been transported to cities across the U.S. Multiple Republican governors have orchestrated the rides. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent two buses of Central and South American asylum seekers to the vice president’s Washington residence earlier this year.
Texas authorities have not responded to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
White House spokesperson Abdullah Hasan in a statement to USA TODAY called the incident a “cruel, dangerous and shameful stunt.”
“As we have repeatedly said, we are willing to work with anyone – Republican or Democrat alike – on real solutions, like the comprehensive immigration reform and border security measures President Biden sent to Congress on his first day in office, but these political games accomplish nothing and only put lives in danger,” Hasan said.
Blizzard keeps going in Great Lakes, hard-hit Buffalo
Forecasters said snow would keep falling around the Great Lakes – up to 3 more feet through Monday in some areas of western New York.
High winds, freezing temperatures and heavy snow have been plaguing the region for days, leading to whiteout conditions.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul described the snowstorm hitting western parts of the state as “one of the worst in history” at a press briefing Saturday morning.
A combination of snow, bitter cold and power outages prompted some Buffalo residents to leave their homes to seek heat. Hochul said the Buffalo Niagara International Airport will be closed through Monday morning.
What is wind chill?
Many of the temperatures with the winter storm were made more brutal by the wind chill factor. Meteorologists define wind chill as how cold it feels while outdoors, and it’s based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the wind-and-cold combination, according to the National Weather Service. Increased wind draws heat from the body, which then lowers the temperature of the skin and internal body.
“Frostbite may develop on exposed skin in as few as 10-20 mins, and hypothermia can quickly develop if you’re not dressed for the cold,” weather service experts in Chicago warned Thursday.